Located at 10619 Old San Antonio Road in Fredericksburg, Texas is the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area or WMA for short. The WMA is a natural park that belongs to the town. It is open year round from sunrise to sunset. Bat viewing is available from May to October in the park. However, the lower viewing area is closed at the evening, and Monday through Wednesday evenings the trail and lower viewing are not open to the public. Thursday through Sunday the trail is open to visitors who pay the admission to view the bats in the lower area. It is best to call ahead before arriving for bat viewing, as there are limited numbers allowed in each evening.
The Old Tunnel is the smallest managed area in Texas. It only sits on 16 acres. Even though the spot is rather small, many visitors head to the Old Tunnel each year. There are a number of recreational activities to enjoy and wildlife opportunities. The Old Tunnel was constructed by the railroad, but it was eventually abandoned. A little while after the tunnel was left unused Brazilian Free Tailed Bats began to make the tunnel home. In fact at any given time there can be 3 million bats. From May to October Cave Myotis Bats will appear. These bats come in the 3,000s. This is the highest number of bats in any Wildlife Management Area of Texas.
During the evening when bat viewing is open there are educational programs for the guests. Visitors are able to learn about the life history and ecology of bats. Day time will bring out a variety of bird species for guests to enjoy. The Old Tunnel has not been a wildlife park for very long. Texas Parks acquired the land in 1991. Their goal is to practice management and research the bat colony, while still allowing guests to visit the area. Biologists are on hand to ensure the bat colonies are not disturbed by the visitors. For anyone wishing to view the bats binoculars are recommended in order to see the bats fly from the tunnel in the dark hours.
A nature trail is also on site for bird watching, hiking, and other wildlife viewing. There are many educational exhibits about the bats and the railroad history interspersed throughout the half mile trail. Texas Parks offer guided nature walks for guests who want a personal experience to learn about the area, plants, and astronomy. To reach the park one must drive 11 miles south out of Fredericksburg.
The Old Tunnel was built in the 1800's after 200 German immigrants moved into the area. The group was led by John Meusebach. He came from the New Braunfels. Most of the individuals in the group were farmers and craftsmen. Needing a market for their fruits, goods, and vegetables they decided a railroad was needed. San Antonio is seventy- five miles away, and the ox and horse took ten to eleven days in good weather. It was too long, thus the railroad needs.